This project will research the science of wildlife tracking and the production of the “datafied animal.” Over the past twenty years, scientists have developed an ever expanding “internet of animals,” a collection of tools that includes machine learning, AI, cyberinfrastructure, GPS-telemetry, and miniaturized tags which have changed the way animal life is tracked, quantified, and understood. There have been many studies of the social construction of machine learning and the effects of datafication on human lives. However, these studies leave unexamined what happens when these technologies are developed for or transferred to the study of animals. As machine learning and AI are becoming critical to the management of endangered species in the wild, it is essential to understand how these tools are shaped by the culture and politics of the worlds in which they are created. Through interviews and participant observation research with scientists and laypeople, this project will analyze the ideas, cultural categories, and histories that shape machine learning and AI about wildlife and the consequences they have for wildlife management.
Link to the Wenner-Gren Foundation: https://wennergren.org/